Driving little Miss Daisy

2009-12-15 00:00

DISTANCE driving with children can be a challenge. We’ve done our fair share of cross-country trekking with our sons Joey (9) and Ben (7) in the back seat and we’ve decided to go on another Cape Town to Gauteng epic just after Christmas.

You’d think that we have this particular game sewed up pretty neatly by now, but as always with parenting, once you think that you know it all, reality delivers an out-of-the-blue butt-kicking to cure you of your smugness.

Honestly, who would have thought that three four litre-size barf bags are entirely insufficient to cope with the aftermath of just one greasy hamburger and a can of cool drink that was administered to Ben at a dodgy takeaway near Port Elizabeth airport? Here are some tips that might make riding in cars with boys (and girls) a little bit easier.

Leave early

And I do mean early, like 4 am or even earlier if you can manage. Let the nondriving family members do the packing the night before and encourage the children to stay up really late for once, while you hit the feathers as soon as the sun goes down. They’ll be exhausted and by the time they wake up in the back seat you’ll be halfway to Plettenberg Bay without so much as a peep out of them.

Comfort, comfort, comfort

Keep their seats clutter-free. Provide them with pillows and blankets and make sure that your car’s air conditioning is in good nick. Cramped and sweaty children make grumpy passengers.

Provide options

Absolutely nobody, not even a four-year- old, should have to listen to Barney’s Birthday Musical Spectacular 2001 more than twice in a 48-hour period­ without a legitimate legal claim to cruel and unusual punishment. Take as wide a variety of in-car entertainment options as you can accommodate.

Think music CDs, audio books, GameBoys, magazines, Rubik’s cubes, activity and colouring-in books, and car-friendly games such as Scrabble and a magnetic chess board. Let the children choose what they want to take and buy them each a special treat — a new Asterix comic or an exciting book — to be presented when they hit a wobbly.


You can’t really ever have too much food and drink on a genuine road trip. By all means take the healthy stuff such as wholesome sandwiches, fruit and mineral water, but don’t forget to pack several helpings of everyone’s favourite treats from potato crisps to jelly tots and cool drinks as well. Try to fit everything into one or two easily accessible cooler boxes. Be sure to have a rubbish bag, wet wipes and several — that’s a number larger than three — quick-draw barf bags at the ready.

Take it easy

Allow for regular breaks to avoid travel fatigue­ and to sooth the frayed tempers that are unavoidable on longish trips. Have lunch, take a picnic and throw around a ball or a Frisbee­ for a while.

Family travel games

If all else fails we find that we can usually negotiate the inevitable bouts of “Mummy I’m so bored” with games that involve the whole clan such as 20 Questions or I Spy. A new favourite­ is Car Bingo. Everyone gets a card with a bunch of things that you’re likely to come across on your journey — you know: windmill, tourist bus, ostrich, one-legged Hungarian on a Vespa, that type of thing. Whoever sights and ticks off all of the items first wins a trip to the Bahamas.

— Travel 24.com

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